31 January 2006

Hey folks, what's up in North America?? Not too much going on in NZ today. It's actually cloudy today, and doesn't look like it's going to clear. I've decided I'm allergic to to southern hemisphere. You can't take a girl out of the depths of winter and through her into the middle of summer with flowers and trees and all that crap and expect her immune system to cooperate.

I learned how to order a coffee yesterday. I kept asking for coffee with cream and sugar and everyone would look at me like I was speaking French. Turns out, coffee is called short black or tall black depending on the size. if you want cream you order a flat white. How the heck was I supposed to know that??

I've also mastered roundabouts. This is a big deal because I used to break out in a cold sweat everytime I saw one coming. Who's on the right? Am I on the right? Do I get to go now?? AHHHH!!! Brian just lets everyone else in the roundabout go first, but I'm braver than he is (sorry Brian, your secret is out!)

No new pictures today because we haven't been anywhere new and I think you all have seen enough pics of ducks.


30 January 2006

Man, this place really sucks. It won't stop raining, it's windy as hell, and the snow, oh man, the snow. Hahaha suckers, it really is that great here! Blue skies, sun, a great breeze, gorgeous flowers and all. Hey we earned it! We had to travel for over 31 hours, including 4 separate flights! And do you know how many hours of overtime I had to work to save up enough time to pay for us to be here??

New Zealanders really don’t like George W. Bush. The first thing our landlord asked us when we arrived was “you didn’t vote for Bush, did you?” Our neighbors are Americans from Colorado, and they said that most of the mention of the US in the New Zealand papers is pointing out stupid things Bush has said or done. We were surprised that people this far away from the US would have such strong opinions about our government!

One of the first questions the doctors Brian is working with asked him was, “Do you own a handgun?” When he said no, they said “Well you’re different from most Americans then.” Of course Brian had to point out that not all Americans are gun-toting gas-guzzling crazies. Hopefully by then end of our stay we’ll have convinced at least a couple Kiwis that we like hiking up mountains, thinking independently and recycling just as much as the do!

Well I’m successfully learning to drive on the wrong side of the road while sitting on the wrong side of the car! Here’s a picture Brian took of me dealing with a gear shift on the LEFT!

I was scared to death to drive at first but now it’s kind of fun to zoom around in our little car with our one little radio speaker blaring.

We’re picking up NZ terms pretty quickly. We had to laugh when we drove past the Trundler park at the grocery store.

I’m highly amused by NZ TV. Mostly because all the shows are American! The second season of Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy starts on Monday, I’ve also seen Martha Stewart, last years Survivor and The Bachelor, and Days of our Lives from about 3 years ago., Plus old reruns of Party of Five and 7th Heaven. At least if I get homesick I can watch American TV!

The center of Christchurch is called Cathedral Square. The name is pretty self explanatory.

Cathedral Square is where the World Buskers Festival was held. It’s a fair with street performers from around the world. Ch Ch (the abbreviation they use around here) government actually paid for the Buskers transportation and accommodations while they’re here because it brings so much business to the city. Here is one of the acts we caught.

Last but not least, look what I found! Tell me that’s not a Buckeye tree!

Today Brian starts his rotation at Christchurch Hospital. That leaves me with a lot of spare time, including a chance to do some catching up on this blog.

Christchurch has a population of about 410,000 people. It’s a very English city, all the houses have little courtyards with gardens out front. The amount of roses and other flowers growing here is amazing. Out in front of our house is a lavender plant that is as big as I am. It smells great.

The main river that flows through town is the Avon River. Apparently this is named for the Scottish Avon River, not the English Avon River. Go figure. Anyway, the river is beautiful with huge willow trees growing alongside it. There is also a path that follows along the river all the way from where we’re staying into the downtown. The best part about the river are the ducks! I know ducks aren’t that exciting but I’ve really been enjoying these ducks. There are normal “American ducks” as Brian calls them. Here is an especially flattering picture of an American duck trying to get some lunch.

There are these smaller darker ducks. When they go under for food, the go all the way under and stay there for around a minute.

The last kind of duck, and I don’t have a picture of them yet, are paradise ducks. They’re about twice the size of normal ducks, and they are the native species of New Zealand. They’re black and the girls have white heads and the boys have black heads. We haven’t seen any fly yet, but apparently when they do, they have beautiful colors on the bottom of their wings.

OK, enough about ducks.

A little ways from our flat is this store.

Milk and honey is a little ice cream/flower store. The ice cream is unusual because you chose either vanilla ice cream, vanilla frozen yoghurt (NZ spelling there) or frozen soy cream and then chose a frozen berry to mix with it. The machine looks like a huge drill and a funnel and it smushes it all up together and it tastes SO GOOD!! We’re been here 3 ½ days and we’ve already had it twice, so I think that counts as slightly addicted.

Right across from this store is a small triangular park dedicated to all the firefighters who lost their lives during September 11. These beams are actually from one of the twin towers. Apparently the World Fire Fighter Games were held in Christchurch shortly after 9/11, and they made this park to show their support for the US Firefighters.

If you were to follow the Avon River farther from our house to the other side of downtown, you would come to the hospital where Brian is working. Just past that are the Christchurch botanical gardens, which are beautiful. Trees in Christchurch are enormous. I don’t think I’ve seen a small tree since we got here!

The coolest part of this tree Brian is standing by is that inside it are no less that 20 little kids climbing around on it like a jungle gym. You know how sometimes you walk past a tree and here a million birds in it but can’t see any of them? This was the little kid version of that tree. We kept hearing giggling and squealing and then finally we saw all of them hidden in the tree. We’ve only made it through about 1/10th of the gardens this far, but we saw a gorgeous rose garden. It’s summer here so everything is at it’s best. Here are a few rose garden pictures.

We also found a conservatory in the park, with a room full of begonias. Have you ever seen begonias like these??

We’re planning on spending more time in the botanical garden, so I’ll post more pictures when we take them.

Here’s a short geography lesson. New Zealand is made up of two islands, the North Island and the South Island. Christchurch is located on the eastern edge of the South Island, in a region called the Canterbury Plains. To all the sides of Christchurch except the east, there are mountains. To the east is the ocean. We drove to the east in our little kiwicar and walked out on the pier. Here are some pictures of the mountains to Southeast of town.

Brian also snuck this picture of some New Zealand newlyweds. What a great place to take some wedding pictures!

Yesterday we took a 3 hour minibus tour of Christchurch and the surrounding areas. Of course Brian wanted to sit in the front seat with the driver, so we ended up getting a front row view of everything. The tour took us up to the top of the mountains to the southeast of town. The view was amazing. These pictures are of the bay southeast of Christchurch. We plan to go back there soon and get our feet wet!

Our tour also took us to Mona Vale. Mona vale is a neat old house built in 1905 with really pretty gardens around it. Brian got a chance to play with his new camera and took some pictures of the gardens, the lily pond and the fern house.

Thanks everyone for all the comments! It makes us smile to read all the good wishes from back home. The weather here is around 18 - 24 celsius. The formula to translate that into Farenheit is 9/5 *c +32 = f, good luck with that! It's been blue skies, sun and a nice breeze almost the whole time we've been here (yes mom, I'm wearing sunscreen and I'll go buy a hat - there's a hole here in the ozone you know!)

28 January 2006

Hello everyone! It’s finally time for my first real post from New Zealand! We’ve spent the past couple days wandering around Christchurch, transitioning to the time change and just being generally discombobulated. Here’s a quick run-down of what we’ve been up to.

First, our apartment. Here are some pictures of home sweet home.

The kitchen. Which, if you turn around, conveniently becomes…

The “lounge.” (Which is apparently a living/dining area.) Directly behind Brian is the little bedroom.

Our apartment also has a bathroom with a toilet (obviously). But the interesting thing about New Zealand toilets is they have two buttons to choose from when it’s time to flush. See:

Has anyone ever seen this before?? We decided that the one on the left means “half-flush,” to be used for number one. The one on the right is “whole-flush, for number two situations. How logical! Co-workers, this would mean that our bathroom in the nurses’ station should only have the button on the left!

Finally, our flat has a very cute front patio:

and backyard.

Our big event from yesterday was buying a car. Here’s a picture of our new mode of transportation.

It’s name is Kiwi, due to it uncanny resemblance to a Kiwi Bird, the national bird of New Zealand.

This fine piece of automobile set us back NZ$ 900. That’s about US$ 630. It’s a 1985 Mazda Familia. The little guy actually drives great and will be enough to get us out to see the South Island.

Hey dad, if you were in New Zealand, today would be your birthday!! So Happy Birthday on January 29, whenever that may be!

27 January 2006

Kia Ora from New Zealand! We're getting used to the time change and slowly learning our way around town. But we don't have internet access in our apartment like we planned, and the card reader isn't working so I can't download any pictures yet. But we're figuring things out and I'll update as I can! The good news is Tito came home safe and sound! We miss everyone!

25 January 2006

We made it! Over 31 hours of travel later but we are safely in Christchurch. I'll post more pictures and info tomorrow (too tired now) but until then, check out the www.worldbuskersfestival.com - we were there!

24 January 2006

Hey, did you know Port Columbus has free wi-fi? How cool is that?? We're waiting for our flight to Atlanta, apparently the airplane has a flat tire. Then we'll be off to LA and then it's bye bye USA. We did pretty well this morning, Brian got to pick up his new glasses, we had breakfast with his parents at Northstar (yum!) and then we went home to finish the last second stuff. We did have one minor meltdown, though. When it was time to leave, Tito was missing!

I think he's hiding somewhere in the house, but Brian thinks he got back. Tito come home! Hopefully my parents will be able to find him soon so we don't have to worry about him the whole time we're gone. More updates soon!

23 January 2006

We're really getting close now! Brian is packing up his stuff (finally) and all the other loose ends are getting tied up. The lights are on timers, the neighbors have keys and the plants and the cat are all ready to go to my parents house tomorrow. It's crazy to think this trip is finally here, we've been talking about it for over a year and now it seems like it just snuck up on us! Tomorrow our flight leaves Columbus at 1245PM and connects through Atlanta before we go to Los Angeles to board our Air New Zealand flight. Then we fly about 18 hours to Auckland, NZ and then a couple more hours to Christchurch. We should be arriving in Christchurch around 1000AM Thursday, NZ time, which will be 4PM on Wednesday for all you Ohioans (I think.) Well, I'm off to finish one more load of laundry before I try to get some sleep! Take care everyone, next time you hear from me I'll be surrounded by Kiwis. (The people not the fruit.)

22 January 2006

Things are not going as planned! Two days until we leave and the airlines are out to get us. The good news is I have all my clothes packed and ready to go. I just have to get together our toiletries and the rest of the backpacking gear. Brian, however, is 0% packed, and here is why. He was supposed to fly back from Chicago on Friday night, but there was a blizzard or something and all the flights to Ohio were cancelled. Of course, they couldn't just say that, they had to prolong the whole ordeal for 4 hours before they officially canceled the flights. Anyway, Brian ended up landing in Cincinnati and his parents picked him up and brought him here around noon on Saturday. To make a long story short, we (he) procrastinated all day and was planning on getting some packing done this morning before he left to go back to Chicago for another interview tomorrow. Then, surprise, most of the flights to Chicago were cancelled, AGAIN, and we ended up finding out at 0950 that the only way he was going to make it to Chicago was to be at the airport at 1030. So he threw his suit in a bag, jumped in the car and off we went. So now I'm back to getting ready for the whole trip on my own! ARGH!! If I'm still sane by the time we get to New Zealand, it'll be a miracle.

19 January 2006

Tonight was my last night at work for two months. I can't say I'm sad about the two months off, but I will miss everyone. I'm lucky to have a job where I have friends, not just coworkers. You guys are great and I'll try to find all the mugs, shot glasses, thimbles and whatever else you all asked for! I'll also think of you while I'm relaxing on my extended vacation!

Diesel is in Virginia now, apparently harrassing his sisters and having a good old time. This house is rediculously quiet without him, I really miss the big lug. Molly (the breeder) has promised to send pictures, and I'll be sure to post some if she does.

I found out today that we can use our cell phones to call from New Zealand for only 1.50 USD a minutes. What a bargain. I think I'll just buy a calling card.

5 more days till we leave! Maybe I should start packing...

05 January 2006

OK, so here's the story about this blog. Brian and I are taking a 7 week trip to New Zealand and Samoa. A few months ago I started a blog to keep everyone up to date on our travels. Apparently I'm not very good with the whole time zone thing, because I miscalculated the time difference between good old Ohio and Christchurch, New Zealand. Anyway, if you want to read the old blog, go here.

So why New Zealand? Brian had always been interested in going to the land of the Kiwis, and when we found out we could get a grant through the medical school so that he could do a rotation abroad, we decided to go for it. When will we ever have another chance to travel across the world, and have part of it paid for. Plus, Brian starts his residency in July and we will have precious little time do much of anything outside the hospital let alone spend weeks exploring a foreign country! Seeing the gorgeous scenery in this movie just helped convince us it was worth it.

So what will we do for all that time? Brian will be working at Christchurch Hospital doing an opthomology rotation. I'm planning on doing some reading and enjoying the time off. I had to work a lot of overtime to save up enough hours to go on vacation for for 7 weeks! On the weekend we'll be tramping (hiking) and seeing as much of NZ as we can. We'll be staying in Christchurch in a "1 and 1/2 bedroom" flat called Bricky's house. Tito the cat will be staying with my parents and Diesel the dog will be staying with some of his brothers and sisters (and mom and aunts and uncles) in Virginia.